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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 02/17/2011

James Beard Foundation announces semi-finalists

By Tom Sietsema

Nearly 20 Washington-area chefs and restaurants got a little closer to scoring some of the top culinary honors in the country when the James Beard Foundation, which hosts the food world's equivalent of the Academy Awards in New York May 9, released its list of semi-finalists in 19 national and regional categories this morning.

Up for consideration (for now) as Outstanding Chef in the U.S.: Jose Andres, the visionary behind Minibar in Penn Quarter.

Palena, celebrating its 10th anniversary in Cleveland Park, is a semi-finalist for Outstanding Restaurant.

Ashok Bajaj of the Knightsbridge Restaurant Group (think 701, Ardeo + Bardeo, Bibiana, Bombay Club, the Oval Room and Rasika) is in the Outstanding Restaurateur pool at this point. His chef at Bibiana, Nicholas Stefanelli, is a candidate for Rising Star Chef of the Year.

Huw Griffiths of the venerable Tabard Inn in Dupont Circle gets a nod for Outstanding Pastry Chef.

Two Washington restaurants, Estadio in Logan Circle and Kushi Izakaya & Sushi in Mt. Vernon Square, made the semi-finalist cut for Best New Restaurant. Charleston of Baltimore and Marcel's in the West End are among Outstanding Service candidates. Todd Thrasher, the sommelier and mixologist at Restaurant Eve and PX in Alexandria, Va., finds himself among semi-finalists for Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional.

Eight local chefs can be counted among semi-finalists in the Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic category. They include Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve, Bertrand Chemel of 2941 in Falls Church, Va., Melissa Close-Hart of Palladio in Barboursville, Va., Tony Conte of the Oval Room, Johnny Monis of Komi, Peter Pastan of Obelisk, Vikram Sunderam of Rasika and Cindy Wolf of Charleston in Baltimore.

No one has won anything yet. The lists of 20 or so names are next voted on and narrowed to five nominees in each category by a pool of former James Beard Foundation winners, regional judges and James Beard Restaurant Award Committee members. (Full disclosure: I'm in that last group.) Nominees will be announced March 21.

The complete list of semi-finalists is available here.

Meanwhile, go, DC (and Maryland and Virginia)!

By Tom Sietsema  | February 17, 2011; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  | Tags:  Tom Sietsema  
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